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The Correspondence between an Evolving Mental Space 
and Text Production 

Inger Bierschenk 

Copenhagen Competence Research Center and 
Department of Psychology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark 

Poster session presented at 9''^ Herbstakademie on Self-Organization of Cognition and 
Applications to Psychology, Conference on Dynamical Systems in Cognitive Science, October 
25-28,2000, Ascona, Monte Verita, Switzerland. 

Self-reference in Writing 

This paper deals with the intricate question of defining a writing style. Since 
the start of the literary epoch of modernism by the beginning of the last century, 
artistic writing has been influenced by the progress of natural science and technology 
as well as by new findings about human mind and behaviour. 

Figure 1. 

Self-reference in Writing 

Style of writing = Style of thinking 


20'" Century thinking: 

Structuralism - Europe 
Functionalism - USA 

Two lines of scientific thinking (paradigms) can be discerned from the 1920's 
onwards: the structuralism in Europe and iho, functionalism in the USA. Structuralism 
as scientific principle found its area of application in Gestalt psychology, which was 
oriented towards the organisation of part-wholes of human mind. But since it could 
not provide psychologists with mental tests, it was soon replaced by the functionalism 
in the USA. Functionalism was modelled in the form of behaviourism and the 
behaviour model has been the dominating one ever since. However, and this is part of 
the actual experimental question, the fiinctionalism and the behaviourism are difficult 
to discern fi-om one another in scientific practice. 

The starting-point of the present study is the assumption that scientific ideas 
will influence writing and other cultural utterances in various fields. Thus writers of 
pure literature would try to transform scientific ideas and concepts in their telling a 
story, even though they will not necessarily be aware of which concepts in fact are 
present in their texts and in what way. 

The hypothesis put forward in this poster presentation is that Ernest 
Hemingway in being an American writer and productive in the 1920's, would be 
categorised as a functionalist in mind and, consequently, a behaviourist in practice. 
Therefore, the principle behind this hypothesis would be outlined as in Figure 2. 

Figure 2. 

The Experimenter 's Mind-Hypothesis 






(Child moves on cliff) 

Figure 2 should be read as follows: The functionalism is governing the 
behaviourism. In a scientific setting, the behaviour model is realised as an inner 
parenthesis, expressing a level of processing on which the components Agent, action, 
and Objective are acting in an affinity relation. As an example of a true experiential 
(ecological) background to this relationship the functionalistic - behaviouristic 
"Visual Cliff-experiment is given (Gibson & Walk, 1960). In this setting the 
governing functionalistic component of the paradigm is realised as the experimenters' 
mind and the behavioural component is realised as the child (A) moving (a) on the 
cliff (O). 

Figure 3. 

Transformation of the Ecological Level into Text 

A a (AaO) 

Design of (experimental variables) 

(symbols as 
textual variables) 

Conceptual Level 

Textual Level 

By transforming the ecological level of Figure 2 to a level at which the 
behavioural component is the written action means that the experimental variables 
(child and cliff) will be replaced with symbols (Figure 3). This measure introduces an 
involvement of the designer with the designed, which is different in type compared to 
the former level, although not different in kind. Letting the writer Hemingway take 
the fimctional position of experimental designer means that he will be a representative 
of the way a story writer writes himself into the textual level by means of the style 
with which he mediates the textual variables. 

Figure 4. 

Prerequisites for Evolving Space 


Perspective — > Texture 

(worked-out surface) 

Perspective Structure -^ (AaO) 

Objective Structure 

Space Formation 


The writer's perspective should be discovered by means of the texture he has 
produced. A method for the analysis and measurement of structure will be used. By 
this method the A and the O components of the texture will be analysed as to the 
degree to which a structure can be discovered, which reflects properties of the 
transformed behavioural component. The design of Figure 4 moreover visualises the 
idea that involved in the objective structure is the writer's intention (perspective), 
which imposes spatial co-ordinates on the extension of his text production. 

Experimental Design 

The experimental design for the study of Hemingway's writing style is 
presented in Table 1 . 

Table 1. 

Design for the Study of Hemingway 's Writing Style 





Variation of 







Variation of 




(Effect of 



A fixation of both A (Perspective) and O (Viewpoints) means Symbol, which 
is stationary and functions as the zero-hypothesis for the reading process. To develop 
understanding requires syntactic movement. Thus (-+) means that the objects vary 
while the perspective stays the same (persons as types, i. e. roles). The (+-) case 
means that the perspective, i.e. the fiinction, varies (persons move in the room and 
talk from different angles). A refinement of this technique is to let someone look into 
a mirror to reach perspective change without functional movement. 

In this way Hemingway manipulates the perspective for the reader to obtain 
understanding (++). The diagonal (-+, +-) represents events at the textual level 
whereas the opposite diagonal represents the writer's intention. The diagonals have a 
complementary function. 

Method and Experimental Text 

The method used is Perspective Text Analysis, which has been developed by 
Bemhard and Inger Bierschenk. In this connection it is sufficient to refer to B. 
Bierschenk's (2000) poster presentation at this conference. 

The experimental text is a portion from a short story, "The killers", first 
published in 1927 (Hemingway, 1977). It is worded: 

Sam, the nigger, standing in his apron, looked at the two 
men sitting at the counter. 'Yes, sir,' he said. Al got down 
from his stool. 

'I'm going back to the kitchen with the nigger and bright 
boy, 'he said. 'Go back to the kitchen, nigger. You go with 
him, bright boy.' The little man walked after Nick and Sam, 
the cook back into the kitchen. The door shut after them. The 
man called Max sat at the counter opposite George. He didn't 
look at George but looked in the mirror that ran along back of 
the counter. Henry's had been made over from a saloon into a 

'Well, bright boy,' Max said, looking into the mirror, 'why 
don't you say something?' 

'What's it all about?' 

'Hey, Al,' Max called, 'bright boy wants to know what it's 
all about.' 

'Why don't you tell him?' Al's voice came from the 

'What do you think it's all about?' 

'I don't know.' 

'What do you think?' 

Max looked into the mirror all the time he was talking. 

'I wouldn't say.' 

Articulation of a Space and its Folded Information 

The following analyses will show the space of the sample text. It is a typical 
text in being accurate, unemotional and told in the form of a dialogue. Following the 
paradigmatic presentations so far, Figures 5 and 6 show the space of the objective 
structure, that is the O- and A-spaces of the inner parenthesis. 

The figures represent the variability at textual level. As can be seen, both 
spaces extend very close to the 0-line, which means that no depth has been projected 
from the surface layout. Moreover, the formation in the A-space shows great 
similarity with the O-space. The result implies that the assumed involvement of the 
outer A in the objective structure can be confirmed: The formation of the spaces is 
produced complementary to each other. 

With respect to the hypothesis it can be stated that the response surfaces give 
the impression that the text is very compressed and intensively worked out. A rigid 
action radius and a purified environment can be read out from these formations. 
Whether this is reflecting a behaviouristic way of writing, as stated in the hypothesis, 
will be an open question until the information structure of the spaces has been 

Does the narrow surface layout reflect an information structure corresponding 
to the fimctionalistic - behaviouristic experimental design, which has been expected? 
The answer is given in the folded spaces of Figures 7 and 8, which represent in the 
form of holophors the information embedded in the structure. 

The graph of Figure 7 forms three evident mountain chains, one low marked 
by Caution and Estrangement, one with the higher peaks Hostility and Pain, and 
between these formations a single top expressing Risk. This is a depiction of an 
environment, which contextualises the risky visual cliff, the conspicousness and 
strange feelings in the exploring child, and the aggressive, dangerous cliff which may 
cause pain for the child, if it picks up its meaning. This is exactly what the Visual 
Cliff-experiment aimed at simulating with the aid of the behavioural component. 

Figure 5. 

The Unfolded Space of the Objective-Component 

Unfolded 0-Space 



Figure 6. 

The Unfolded Space of the Agent-Component 

The Unfolded A-Space 



Figure 7. 

The Folded Space of the Objective Component 

The Folded 0-Space 













15 -^ 
10 (^ 


Figure 8. 

The Folded Space of the Agent-Component 

The Folded A-Space 


Hemingway has simulated the pain, which is the expression of the understanding that 
may be the outcome of the reading. 

The Agent's perspective is represented in Figure 8. Hostility and Firmness 
indicate the writer's intention to build up a threat with functionalistic accuracy. The 
highest peak is Pain, which is formed by Disregard and Imaginary. Both represent 
the intention to design an environment, which is dangerous, however virtual. 

In conclusion, these formations are complementary too. The main structure at 
the textual level is bound to the writing event, both the fiction produced and the 
intentionality that is inevitably built into it. Hostility and Pain both imply an objective 
and a subjective side and thus emerge as a unity in this analysis. 

And how about the answer to the research question? Is Hemingway a 
functionalist in mind and a behaviourist is practice? Well, the results of Figures 5-8 
tell us that he is a functionaUst throughout, since functionalist ideas necessarily 
govern behaviourist concepts when it comes to practice. However, it should be 
pointed out that without the method of analysis used the fiinctionalist structure of the 
designer would not have been distinguished from the object of his design. 


Bierschenk, B. (2000). Nature 's string stitching device for the production of a 
language space. Poster session presented at 9^ Herbstakademie on Self- 
Organization of Cognition and Applications to Psychology, Conference on 
Dynamical Systems in Cognitive Science, October 25-28, Ascona, Monte 
Verita, Switzerland. 

Gibson, E. J., & Walk, R. D. (1960). The "visual cliff. Scientific American, 202(4), 

Hemingway, E. (1977). The Killers. In E. Hemingway, Men Without Women, (pp. 49- 
58). London: Granada Publishing. (First published 1927) 

SigmaPlot 5.0 (1988). User's Guide. Chicago: SPSS Inc. 


The illustration in Figure 3, page 5, is copied from a drawing by Erik 
Palmquist to the cover of the Swedish translation of Hemingway's "Islands in the 
stream" published by Aldus/Bonniers, Stockholm, 1972. 

Author's Note 

This article has been produced with financial support from the Danish 
Research Councils. Correspondence should be sent to Inger Bierschenk, Copenhagen 
Competence Research Centre, Copenhagen University, Njalsgade 88, DK-2300 
Copenhagen S, Denmark or via E-mail to